$10,000 Grant Awarded for State of the Child Conference

The Outer Banks Community Foundation has awarded a grant of $10,000 to the Children & Youth Partnership for Dare County’s upcoming State of the Child Conference, scheduled for September 26, 2014. It will be Dare County’s fifth such conference focusing on children’s issues.

The theme of the conference this year is positive parenting, and the goal is to jumpstart a “positive message campaign” to support and encourage positive behaviors among children, families, and adult role models.

The Community Foundation has a long history of championing our local children and youth, beginning with a $500 grant in 1987 for Dare County’s first State of the Child conference. After that initial success, the Community Foundation renewed and increased that support with a $1,000 grant for the 1994 State of the Child Conference.

The idea for the 1994 conference was to bring together all the players in the arena of children’s issues so that they could identify community needs and solutions. The Community Foundation convened a large planning committee, which developed a list of needs to be presented to the public. The conference that followed was entitled “Make Kids Count” and was dedicated to improving the well-being of children in our community.

“The partnership that worked to create the conference was a big one, and it was set up to ensure an ongoing focus on youth and children’s issues,” said Deloris Harrell, who, with Betty Blanchard, co-chaired the effort.

The topics for the 1994 conference were far-reaching and broad in scope: economic and geographic factors affecting children and families, a needs assessment for health resources, consequences of risk-taking behaviors, ways to strengthen families and support parents, crisis interventions for children in problematic family situations, and gaps in community safety nets for youth.

Elected officials, business leaders, and interested community members attended the conference to both learn and offer support for the development of the programs.

The dividends that followed went far beyond “just” a conference. The direct results included the development of a youth center governed by a youth council that expanded throughout the county; school nurses in each of the schools; increased funding for out-of-home placement for at-risk children; multiple levels of support for childcare services; and more funding for programs to support and strengthen families in all areas of the county.

The first priority following the conference was the creation of a partnership, modeled after North Carolina’s Smart Start, with a diverse governing board composed of business, government, youth, church, and civic representation. It was set up as a nonprofit and tasked with assessing youth needs, seeking and securing funding for programs, avoiding duplication of services, and maximizing the use of existing facilities.

And in September 1994, Children & Youth Partnership for Dare County was organized as a nonprofit agency whose mission was to provide programs and services to children and their families in Dare County.

The Partnership decided to tackle two issues that came out of the conference: the need for a wholesome gathering place for teens, and the lack of sufficient placement options for abused/neglected children in Dare County. These initiatives resulted in the creation of the Dare County Youth Center and Youth Council, and the creation of the Wright Place for Youth group home for children needing out-of-home placement. Both initiatives received start-up grants from the Outer Banks Community Foundation.

Shortly thereafter, in 1998, the Partnership was selected to administer the state’s Smart Start Early Childhood program for Dare County. The program has expanded and continues to date, offering a variety of programs and resources aimed at ensuring the healthy development and school readiness for all children from birth to five years of age.

Two of the Partnerships’ recent, more commonly-known programs are KidsFest, an annual spring event held at Roanoke Island Festival Park, celebrating young children learning through play, and Imagination Library, which mails beautiful books to participating children to encourage a solid foundation for reading. Additional programs offer support for child care providers and parents through projects such as BabyLinks, Raising A Reader, Reach Out and Read, Child Care Subsidies, Parents As Teachers, and Child Care Resource and Referral.

The organization’s first director, Loretta Michael, continues to serve in that capacity.

“Since the 1994 State of the Child conference, we have held two additional How Are the Children? conferences, both supported by the Community Foundation,” said Michael. “And next September, we will convene another, this time focusing on growing ‘Positive Community Norms’ in an effort to develop a county-wide culture that supports parenting. Our long-term goal is that parents and adults in our community will support ‘positive parenting’ and serve as good role models. “

The Positive Community Norms program (PCN) was developed at Montana State University, is research-based, and has a good track record. It incorporates Social Norms Theory, which shows the powerful impact that norms have on how people think and behave. A Positive Community Norms campaign can correct certain misperceptions or normative behaviors and build the willingness of a community to engage in healthier, safer behaviors, be it alcohol consumption, traffic safety, or child maltreatment. Nancy Griffin and Tess Judge, co-chairs of the 2014 conference, have been conducting monthly planning meetings with a conference steering committee to get ready for next September’s event and the launch of the Positive Community Norms program.

Children & Youth Partnership will celebrate 20 years of service to children and families in Dare County next September as it convenes the 5th State of the Child Conference on September 26, 2014 — a fitting time to once again ask: “How are the Children?”

Today the Children & Youth Partnership is governed by a diverse, 21-member board of directors and employs a small, dedicated staff who, along with the board, offer an array of preventive and supportive services for children and families in Dare County. Details about these programs can be found on the website at www.darekids.org.

The Outer Banks Community Foundation is a public charity that connects people who care with causes that matter. The Community Foundation manages $12 million in 125 charitable funds for individuals and agencies, awards charitable grants to local nonprofits, administers 40 scholarship funds, and provides tailored services to help donors pursue their charitable interests. Since its inception in 1982, the Community Foundation has awarded more than $5 million in grants and scholarships to local nonprofits and students.

Donations to the Community Foundation’s Children and Youth Fund may be made online or mailed to 13 Skyline Road, Southern Shores, NC 27949. For more information, call 252-261-8839.

Photo caption: Members of the State of the Child Steering Committee accept a $10,000 grant award from the Outer Banks Community Foundation. From left: Tim White; Lorelei Costa (Community Foundation Executive Director); Amy Denson; Roxana Ballinger; Lisa DiFilippo; Nancy Griffin, steering committee Co-Chair; Amy Montgomery; Sara Sampson; Carol Copeland; Thea Crane O’Neil; Angela Owens; and Kip Tabb. (Other committee members not present: Tess Judge, Co-Chair; Amber Bodner; Kelly Nettnin; Dee McManus; Leigh Ann Vincent; Lisa Murphy; Melinda Mogowski; and Loretta Michael.)

Sandy Semans Ross, Loretta Michael, and Lorelei Costa contributed to this article.